Intercontinental Hotels to be shut by Customs over rice duty scam

The famous Intercontinental Hotels Lagos might be shut this week by the Nigeria Customs Service following the alleged refusal of the hotel’s parent company, Milan Group to pay Rice Duty which Customs says it is meant to pay.

Speaking during a phone interview this morning on the maritime programme Ships and Ports Radio which airs on Radio One 103.5 FM, the National Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service, Deputy Controller Wale Adeniyi, said this was because Milan Group which has refused to pay rice subsidy after exceeding its rice quota for 2014 is housed in the same premises as Intercontinental Hotel and shares the same owners.

He said, “We are not unmindful that they have guests in the hotel. We are making representations to them to ensure that they either pay Customs duty or they evacuate their guests before we come to seal the hotel premises off. Because it is the hotel premises that houses the Milan Group.

“The owner of the companies are the same. So, we’ve given them options; either to make do their payment or we have no choice but to stop them from operating. We don’t want to create unnecessary scenes so we are going to be civil in our approach to the Intercontinental issue.

He said the planned operation was due to government directives that the premises of all defaulting importers be sealed off.

He said, “This is not a threat. We have been given a directive to seal the business premises of all defaulting importers. It is a directive we are going to carry out. So we’ll give them one or two days notice to get their guests and their customers informed so that we don’t end up embarrassing anybody.

According to Adeniyi, some of the companies have falsely claimed that the quotas given to them were to be carried over to 2015.

Debunking such insinuations he said,” The documents conveying the quotas were explicit. The quotas were meant to bridge a supply gap. 1.3 metric tons was estimated to be what Nigeria needed to bridge the supply gap in 2014 and that it should be imported in a concessionary way. And it was stated that any of the companies that exceeded the quota will have to pay what others who didn’t get concessions would pay, and that is 70% duty.

“So they imported 750,000 metric tons in excess. So, when told to go and pay they are now saying it is retroactive. It is carried over. We don’t have any document telling us that the waiver is carried over.”

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